Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan's Religious Demons

Now she belongs to history.

And history will decide whether she might have saved Pakistan...or just helped sink it. Whether she was a secular martyr who heralded a new age of democracy...or just another lousy Pakistani politician incompetent and corrupt.

But nobody will be able to deny that Benazir Bhutto was really brave.

She was attempting to make the connection between lack of democracy in Pakistan and the rise of mullah-manipulated fanaticism.

And, right to the end, she carried on without the fetish of "security" and with lofty disregard for her own safety. This courage could sometimes have been worthy of a finer cause, and many of the problems she claimed to solve were partly of her own making. Nonetheless, she perhaps did have a hint of destiny about her.

A woman of destiny in a failed state going nowhere.

As for who gave the orders to kill her? The way they cleaned up the crime scene with fire hoses I'm sure we'll never know.

But it doesn't really matter. Because we all know where the young man who actually killed her almost certainly came from.

From one of the thousands of madrassahs run by religious extremists who turn little boys into suicide bombers. So Pakistan's corrupt generals and sinister intelligence services can use them as a proxy army in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Boys just like this one.

“Even before you blow yourself up, virgins come to the site of the explosion and wait to take you to Paradise...”

The religious fanatics already hated her for being modern, secular, and of course for being a woman. But by vowing to reform or shutdown the radical madrassahs...and threatening the mullahs AND the generals.... Benazir Bhutto almost surely sealed her fate

Still, the secular generals who make up the high command of the Pakistani army must be sipping their scotches nervously in the garrison town of Rawalpindi tonight.

Ever since they sent off the first wave of jihadis to battle the Soviets in Afghanistan...and all those American billions started pouring in..... they've acquired incredible power and wealth.

But now the suicide bombers are amongst them. The killer children they nurtured with the help of crazy religion are turning on their own. And you can't put those kind of demons back in a box once you've let them out.

Today they came for Bhutto..... tomorrow they could come for them. And their nuclear weapons.

Which means that the Great War on Terror just got more complicated... and a lot more dangerous.

Although in one way it's simpler now. The writing is on the wall. Either Pakistan starts destroying religious fanatics instead of breeding them. Or they'll destroy Pakistan.

Poor brave Benazir. She never really had a chance. And she was a really flawed martyr.

But I'm going to miss her...


  1. Rather naive there Simon (as in the Shah of iran was a modernizer too):

    Here is an article by one of the best writers on the region (William Dalrymple)- a little quote for you:

    "... but it is often forgotten the degree to which Bhutto is the person who has done more than anything to bring Pakistan's strange variety of democracy - really a form of elective feudalism - into disrepute. During her first 20-month long premiership, astonishingly, she failed to pass a single piece of major legislation. Her reign was marked by massive human rights abuse: Amnesty International accused her government of having one of the world's worst records of custodial deaths, extrajudicial killings and torture. Bhutto's premiership was also distinguished by epic levels of corruption. In 1995 Transparency International named Pakistan one of the three most corrupt countries in the world. Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari - widely known as "Mr 10%" - faced allegations of plundering the country."

    Sadly, you can trust Dalrymple on this subject.

  2. Hi Lept!! You're absolutely right and Dalrymple is absolutely BRILLIANT. But as I pointed out on your blog after one of your excellent posts on the subject, in a place like Pakistan everything is relative. Just by being a woman and a Westernized and secular one she was an excellent if flawed symbol to put up against the medievalists. They hated her, the generals hated her, and so did the Saudis who are backing Sharif. And the enemy of my enemies blah blah blah... I also should say that I admired her foolhardy courage a lot.
    The tragic irony is you point out... she once nurtured the kind of fanatics who eventually killed her...
    And the fascinating thing is that in the aftermath of Independence my mother's dad was a British army adviser in Lahore. I only found that out last summer and I wish my grandfather was still alive so I could ask him what REALLY went wrong. And assure me that our family had NOTHING to do with it!!! :)